Athia scrambled across the ground as Iylians died. Their assailants got off three salvos before their portals hit the ground. Those on Athia’s side of camp screamed and ran. Lerian riders swooped in from behind.
They charged with long swords, using the reach to extend them like lances while more, on foot, came from the tree line.
A dark glint flashed in Athia’s eyes as she picked up speed. Both of her spikes embedded in the road up ahead.
. . . . .
Veil clutched a gash in their side as the Master’s carriage rocked from nearby explosions. Another bolt pierced the carriage and punched through the other side before detonation. Puncture marks and burns marred the inside of it.
The Master stayed huddled at the bottom, Veil on top of him.
“Bring in the others, save this form” the Master said. His ears rang and his body ache, but he avoided major injury. Veil’s blood stained him.
“It’s no matter, Master,” Veil said. “I’ll defend you until this life extinguishes.”
“No,” he said, “you can’t. Bring the others.”
Veil clutched a hand to their side. It hurt, it always hurt. Countless injuries that could maim or kill any normal person. They might heal when vanish with a fading form, but the scars settled far deeper, and each one remembered.
“Veil,” the Master snapped. “do as I’ve said.”
“My nearest double was slain already,” Veil said as a bolt burst against the side of the carriage. “In the surprise. The third is on its way, but I’m not sure it will make it.”
Veil pushed themselves off the master, seated against the bottom of the carriage seat. They reached for a blanket that’d fallen and began to wrap it around their wounded side.
“Master, they could have destroyed the carriage but choose not to. They want you alive. At least if they can manage it.”
Two new Veils appeared, sporting the same deep gash and simple wrapping. They turned to the first, who felt their flash of hatred before duty wore it to nothing an instant later.
With single mindedness, they began to patch the wounds of the first Veil. One cleaned, another poured alcohol to disinfect, and the last sutured while the others cut off ruined clothes and gathered Veil’s armor as their own lives drained in a steady tide of blood.
Each one changed the moment it left the original. And in truth, none of them wanted to die.
. . . . . .
Carius pulled on his helm and urged his riders onward as his attention turned to the Master’s carriage. Around him, his soldiers met with the haggard rabble of Clarient. Further out, what remained of the outnumbered Iylians anchored their shields and returned volleys at the Prylians.
The Prylians expended much of their bursting bolts in the opening, which gave the Iylians an edge if the fight lasted too long. Carius’s job was to make sure that didn’t happen. He kicked his horse into motion, then turned to the civilians he sat his riders upon.
The people parted just before the reaching swords took them. A figure shot forward, so fast Carius would have thought he imagined it, if it didn’t unhorse his lead rider. The man shrieked as he shot back and slammed into the horse of another rider, toppling them both to the ground.
Two more riders fell, one with a stomach-turning crack of bones.
Carius’s perception increased, the world slowing as one of his powers ratcheted up to high. He spied one person in a trailing cloak, flying toward the trees. His hand moved out, painfully slow by his new senses. When he spoke, he felt every twitch of his throat and pressure from his lungs.
“There, it’s just one, kill him!”
Before he finished, another rider flew off his horse. Then a second took an armored knee to the abdomen, breaking rips and tossing him like a rock from a sling. The person vanished into the trees again while his riders hesitated, gathering in a defensive formation.
Carius pointed once more, “it’s just one person! Point your sword, ready the pull, catch those weapons and the fight is yours.” He ushered his horse forward, leaving his troops. This fight didn’t matter, just the prize.
. . . . .
Athia flung herself skyward. Her dark cloak obscured her as she hid a set of twin stars far overhead. The cavalry kept their swords pointed to her last location. They should know she’d expect them to catch on by the second or third run. She tossed her spikes and their cords around her body, wrapping a dozen times over her torso.
She fell in silence, attention on the nine riders till able to fight. The rest of the fighting could wait until this was done. The Master could suffer a thousand awful fates before she let the innocent Clariens die. Before she’d let these get away with their butchery.
This move would take a great deal of precision, and it would hurt. All of this hurt a great deal, to be fair, but she would manage. This next part though, it was notably painful. Even if done right. And this was her first try.
She spun as she fell, feet first, planning her move. Letting it play out over and over in her head in the two seconds it took her to fall.
One of them noticed her, too late.
She reversed her power on herself and came to a quick, but not instant, stop at horse level. At the same time, she put even more momentum into her spin, pulling her arms and thus her spikes. They shot around her, building speed and power at an unbelievable rate.
By the tenth rotation, both weapons boomed from sheer force. Wind kicked up, sucking dirt and rocks skyward. Then she extended them all by a dozen feet. That increased their drag and started a roaring gale. She altered the momentum to pull her punch, just enough. Her weapons clothes-lined all nine riders, broke armor, and sent them all flying out and up in the torrent of her attack. The lot landed in heaps all around, broken and beaten, but they could survive it.
She cut her power and landed hard on both feet, then stumbled down to one knee. Her shoulders ached and one of her arms hung loose from its socket while her head pounded murder. That momentum power was, in a sense, alteration of the perception of others. She appeared faster, ever gaining speed, but her own perception of her speed grew far slower. Making it far more manageable even at extraordinary speeds.
The problem came when she cut power and took impacts closer to what they should feel like. And she was right.
To be Continued on Friday